Although the President was elected on 9 January 2015, because of the 19th Amendment, he will go out of office earlier, on 8 January 2020.
Section 31(3) of the Constitution says that a Presidential Poll shall take place “not less than one month and not more than two months” before the President’s term ends. That is between 8 November and 8 December 2019. However, Section 2(2) of the Presidential Elections Act No. 15 of 1981 as amended by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution says that the date of poll shall not be a Poya Day or public holiday. Sundays are also public holidays. With 8 December being a Sunday, 7 December is the last possible day for the Presidential Polls.
Other considerations are also at play. GCE O/Ls begin in December. We cannot therefore use schools for our polling stations as we do. Saturdays are preferred so that we do not disrupt work. Party stalwarts’ birthdays are best kept at a distance to avoid prohibited firecrackers and distribution of goodies on the pretext of a birthday party.
On 9 September, the Chairman of the Election Commission announced that it will not be 7 December or 23 November because two party leaders had wanted these dates. The former to not be a lame duck after the poll and the latter to ensure that his favourite candidate’s astrologer had recommended that date as most auspicious. A web newspaper also has incorrectly said that the EC Chairman has promised that 23rd date – which would make the EC not independent.
With all these in mind the EC has decided. But we cannot announce it because of the law which is clear about the date of proclamation – the nomination order. In Section 2(1) (a) of the Presidential Elections Act it is stated that the Commission shall set the date of filing nominations for the Presidential Poll not less than 16 days and not more than 21 days from the publication of the nominations order.
Section 2(1)(b) says the poll date should be “not less than four weeks and not more than six weeks before the poll date.
Working backwards then,
1) i. If the poll date is the earliest, that is 8 November, then nominations date should be between 27 September (six weeks before) and 11 October (four weeks before).
ii. If the poll date is the latest, that is 7 December, then the nominations date will be between 26 October (six weeks before) and 9 November (four weeks before);
Now using numbering 1)i and 1) ii to split each into the two alternatives,
2) i.a If the poll is on 8 November and nominations on 27 September, then date of nomination order (proclamation) is 6 September (21 days before nomination) to 11 September (16 days before nomination)
i.b If the poll is on 8 November and nominations on 11 October, then date of nomination order is from 20 September (21 days before nomination) to 25 September (16 days before nomination);
ii.a If the poll date is the latest (that is, if we set the poll for 7 December, and the nomination is on 26 October, then the nomination order will be from 5 October (21 days before) to 10 October (16 days before)
ii.b If the poll date is the latest (that is, if we set the poll for 7 December, and the nomination is on 9 November, then the nomination order will be from 19 October (21 days before) to 24 October (16 days before)
Thus we see that the earliest date on which we can proclaim the day of elections is 6 September. But we will make no proclamation that day because of the need to get voter registers ready and the postal ballot papers also. And they will not be ready for an 8 November election.
We will issue the proclamation on 21 September shortly after the Paura Short Film Festival celebrating democracy. Now do some calculations.